I've already explained how repulsed I am at the posturing that Prof. Lawrence Lessig is doing around the tragedy of "Internet freedom fighter" Aaron Swartz's death. He claims that "prosecutorial overreach" somehow is to blame for Swartz's death, although as this very good analysis by Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr explains, the law was properly applied.
No, to me, it's about professorial overreach.
Lessig's over-heated claims are in keeping with a string of over-reaching professors cancelling out the rule of law and pretending we already live in Richard Brautigan's utopia "all watched over by machine's of loving grace" (he committed suicide, too).
The worst has been turned in by Tim Berners-Lee, the "founder of the Internet" who deliberately engineered into it the three greatest flaws of online life:
o lack of privacy
o failure to recognize and protect private property
o antagonism to commerce
The Internet has thrived (ebay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter) to the extent that it has overcome these inherent fatalities.
But a concerted band of technocommunists -- those who destroyed the "walled gardens" of web 1.0 but were unsucessful in destroying them in Facebook and elsewhere in web 2.0 -- keep trying to hack these flaws back in.
Here's what Berners-Lee had to say -- as if we are all living in a chapter of The Hobbit:
Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.
That...instead of honestly recognizing that a young man of great promise and reputed genius killed himself -- killed himself after being lured into the shared fantasy of the "propaganda of the deed". Killed himself not because he was a "wise elder" or "wandering the world" on some fantasy quest, but because he was misled and mentored into criminality by professors who should have known better who are unethical.
Of course, Lessig is the greatest one to blame - John Perry Barlow and Cory Doctorow as well. But Peter Ludlow, our own Urizenus Sklar in Second Life, has played a great role as the leading word-salad sous-chef in the dramas around Anonymous, whether in Second Life or the larger Internet.
He turns in the usual thumb-sucker for The New York Times' philosopher's section, pretending that there is some "war for meaning" over the word "hacker" or "hacktivist" when...in fact there is only a deliberate lie, and a conscious distortion with the aim to wish away criminality.
So I take him on there, but of course, one of the typical little script kiddie girls or Anon regs pretending to be a girl comes on and goes through mock horror over my claim -- which I stand by -- that Anonymous is no better than the rapists at Steubenville because they break the law, too. And, I would add, they subject the victim to viral online ruination of her reputation even more effectively than the original drunken football players because of their greater capacity for amplification and distribution. No matter that this was done under the guise of a campaign against rape; this entire concoction was brought to us by the people from the likes of the 4chan hard-core pages which objectify women in violent and gross porn. Shame on them. Anonymous *is* no better than a rapist because both break the law; vigilantes are not an acceptable substitute for due process.
Of course, academe is completely weepy over this suicide, and everywhere cranking up to make it all be about "the Man" and his evils. We now have Aaron's father also "blaming the government". Everyone can understand his pain and his need to blame someone -- but...his own employer (MIT) doesn't get to demand the integrity of its computer servers with the grieving rage that a father understandably feels? Yet that's why we don't have vigilantism in our society, but the rule of law, right? Will we get it? I'm really starting to wonder.
Professors have launched a rather hypocritical campaign of "liberating" their articles in PDF form. Big deal. Where you guys before all this? We didn't see you doing this then; oh, some of you did, but so what? You're already paid and you don't have to worry about how you will make a living online.
More to the point, with few exceptions, we didn't see your blogs or Twitter feeds filled with petitions or comments in support for Swartz. Mind you, this wasn't my cause; I was critical then as now. But these professor-copyleftists should believe in this cause -- but just like Electronic Frontier Foundation and the other "freedom fighters," they gave it a pass. They didn't file amicus briefs. The defense lawyer was hoping to "get some letters from professors". Oh? Which ones? Where were they back then?
In fact, if Micah Allen, who originated the campaign and others are really sincere about their beliefs and their aspirations, they should all be hacking into their university servers now and stealing everything they can get keepgrabbing.py or its moral equivalent that they or their script-kiddie students can sic on the thing. Where's Pixeleen when we need him, eh?! I bet he could gopher that...
And why stop at "public domain" articles? Get the students' grades; the professors' salaries; the donors' home addresses -- get anything and spill anything and do just like your hero Aaron did, you know? Otherwise you are morally bankrupt, truly.
But of course, you're that anyway in my book.